Adrian Beltre doesn’t know what his future holds. The future Hall of Fame third baseman, who did not play Monday for the second consecutive game because of a grade 2 hamstring injury, knows the clock is ticking on his career.
“I’m not going to decide that until the off-season,” Beltre said before Monday’s series opener against the Oakland A’s at the Oakland Coliseum.
“Everything on the baseball field, everything with my family, everything with how I feel mentally is going to be part of [my decision] but I’m not going to make a decision until the season is over.”
He’ll wait until November or December to decide whether to come back for a 22nd season.
If he retired tomorrow, Beltre would finish with the 19th most hits, 33rd most home runs, 12th most doubles, 28th most RBIs, 15th most total bases and 14th most games played. But those records and milestones aren’t what he’ll be debating internally once his 21st season in the majors is in the books.
“I’ll bring it all together and be at peace with which way I’m going to go,” he said. “If I feel like I can’t hit anymore, which sometimes this year I’ve felt that I can’t hit anymore, if I can’t compete with the young guys, yes, I’ll pack up my bags and go home. As of right now, I’m not at that stage yet. I might be there at the end of the year.”
Rangers manager Jeff Banister knows the agonizing decision Beltre is wrestling with.
The decision typically comes down to whether all the preparation that goes into playing the game is still enjoyable, especially for someone at Beltre’s advanced age of 39.
Beltre can still produce at the plate and field his position at a high level when he’s healthy. But does he have another off-season of training and another spring training in him?
“It’s the grind of getting ready to play. It’s the time from once they get up in the morning to game time and the preparation of playing,” Banister said. “Think about Dirk [Nowitzki] and what he goes through on a daily basis to be prepared to play a basketball game and when does he start that preparation?
“If they fall out of love with that process that is probably when it comes very challenging for them. Then they really have to make a decision.”
That’s where Beltre is in his life after one of the best careers by a third baseman in the history of the game. He knows there’s no turning back once he retires. He doesn’t want to be Brett Favre.
“Family, kids, I have a daughter going into high school … it all plays into it,” Beltre said. “It will be a really calculated, slow decision that I have to make because once you go you can’t come back. I don’t want to be like Favre. I want to be clear of mind that if this is the last day I’m going to play I’m going to be comfortable in the decision that I’m not coming back.”
He still loves the game and still loves playing, but as Banister pointed out, it comes down to whether he still loves everything else that comes before the lights come on and the game starts.
“I’ve been playing this game for 20-plus years. I love this game. Once I quit, I don’t know what else to do,” Beltre said. “So I want to be clear in my mind that this is what I want to do and that I’ll be OK with it and my family will be OK with it.”
Beltre scoffed at the notion of taking two weeks off to let his hamstring heal.
“We only have five weeks left,” he said. “I did that last time and what happened?”
You can take that as Beltre being admittedly stubborn or that he knows this is it so sitting down for two weeks for his final month and a half is not an option.
“You don’t want to leave this. It’s the lifestyle, it’s the camaraderie,” Banister said. “Off-seasons are tough. I think that gives you a good insight on how well you’re going to be able to adjust to life after baseball is how well you adjust to your off-season.
“For a lot of guys, the challenge is filling that rush of playing. You can’t replace it. That adjustment is extremely challenging. That’s why you hope that you have a great core base of people around you, whether you’re married or have a family so you keep yourself occupied so you can make that transition.”
Most players are never thinking about the end, which is a virtue of youth and invincibility, but also out of an innate sense of self-preservation, Banister said.
“Most of these guys don’t think about the end because once you think about the end you’re conceding the fact that it is going to end,” he said. “What makes them great is they don’t see the end necessarily.”
But Beltre, to his credit, might see the end.